It recently came to light that Preller instructed his medical staff to maintain two sets of records on Padres players, one that was submitted to Major League Baseball and made available to all clubs per MLB rules, and one that was used for internal purposes only. The clear intent was to deceive his fellow GMs and obtain an advantage over them in trades. After a number of teams complained that they were not receiving accurate medical information on Padres players, MLB initiated an investigation. After reviewing the facts, the League slapped Preller with a 30-day suspension without pay for failing to provide the Red Sox with complete medical records prior to the consummation of a trade in July.
Preller thus became the first non-uniformed MLB employee to be publicly suspended since the late Marge Schott, former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, who was banned for two years in 1996 and 1997 for making racial and ethnic slurs. While the punishment sounds harsh, in reality it was a punishment with no consequences. The Padres arguably benefit by saving Preller’s salary during the suspension and the penalty doesn’t compensate the Red Sox. If MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred had wanted to send a message to teams about the consequences of concealing medical information—which undermines the very integrity of the game —he could have imposed much stronger punishment.
MLB has used the “integrity of the game” argument with the union for repeatedly seeking increases in suspensions for players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Today, the first failed drug test carries an automatic 80-game suspension. Alex Rodriguez received a suspension for an entire season after being classified as a repeat drug offender. Yet, even when he had no restrictions on the level of punishment, no union to contend with, and no appeal process available to Preller or the Padres, Manfred chose to impose a much weaker penalty for cheating by a general manager, someone whose actions could have a significantly greater negative impact on the sport than the actions of a drug-fueled player.
MLB seemed anxious to put the Preller matter behind it. In a statement that accompanied the suspension announcement the League said it “considers the matter closed.” The Red Sox, however, didn’t seem satisfied. Team chairman Tom Werner told NESN, the team’s Regional Sports Network, that “we felt that some wrong was committed and that it’s important to have a level playing field, and the Padres didn’t play on it.”
The Padres defended their embattled GM, categorizing Preller’s actions as “unintentional, but inexcusable.” In his response to the suspension, Preller sounded like the typical player who, upon failing a drug test, offers the standard “I had no idea what I was ingesting in my body” defense. In a statement released by the Padres, Preller said there was “no malicious intent” in what he did and added, “This has been a learning process for me.” If there was “no malicious intent,” the two obvious questions are, why did Preller do it and why was he suspended?
Preller is a serial violator of MLB rules. While working in the front office of the Texas Rangers in 2010 he was suspended 30 days for an improper negotiation with an international free agent. After the Padres hired him in 2014, they were reportedly fined for another violation of international signing rules. In addition to the trade with the Red Sox, Preller also made a July trade with the Miami Marlins that drew scrutiny. Pitcher Colin Rea needed Tommy John surgery after pitching only four innings in his first start for the Marlins. After Miami complained that they were sent damaged goods, the Padres agreed to amend the trade, leaving one to wonder just how many opportunities to “learn” one GM should get before MLB sends a message that deceptive and unethical behavior by its employees will not be tolerated?
In order to do their jobs confidently and successfully, GMs need access to accurate information from their scouting departments and other teams in the form of medical reports. Preller’s actions constituted fraud, something no GM should expect to deal with from his counterpart. MLB’s inadequate response to Preller’s breach of professional ethics hardly guarantees such action won’t occur again.
The author is a former attorney, CPA, Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a Professor in and Chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.© Copyright 2016 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed